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Regulators Release Early Findings In Danville Gas Pipeline Explosion

Tennessee Gas Pipeline

The natural gas explosion that killed one and injured six near Danville, Kentucky left behind a crater 50-feet long and 13-feet deep.

The concussive force from the blast was so great, federal regulators shut down two nearby pipelines to inspect them for damage. In the explosion's wake, flames as tall as 300 feet scorched homes, railroad tracks, trees and vegetation for 30 acres around the site.

Investigators have not yet found the cause of last week's explosion, but the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released its preliminary findings in a corrective action report Thursday.

The Timeline

Just one minute after the explosion at 1:24 a.m. on August 1, alarms began buzzing inside a gas control room in Houston, Texas. At about the same time, an operator at the Danville Compressor Station also received the alarm. The operator turned to the window to see the flames.

Lincoln County firefighters arrived at the scene first. Together with other local departments they evacuated about 75 people from the nearby Indian Camp subdivision.

Lisa Denise Derringer, 58, of Stanford died as a result of the explosion. First responders transported three people to the hospital. Others made it to medical services on their own.

The explosion was so powerful it launched a 30-foot section of steel pipe nearly 500 feet away. The ensuing fire burned up 66 million cubic feet of natural gas and led to the closure of two other nearby natural gas pipelines.

Enbridge closed the two adjacent pipelines of similar size over fears the concussive force from the explosion, or heat from the fire, could have damaged them.

The Pipeline

The failed 30-inch wide pipeline was built in 1942 and transports gas 775 miles between Mississippi and Pennsylvania. It’s part of the Texas Eastern Transmission pipeline, a 9,100 mile-long pipeline system that transports natural gas from the northeast to the Gulf Coast, according to the report.

Texas Eastern Transmission (owned by Enbridge) last inspected the failed pipeline earlier this year. An inspection last year identified a small dent with metal loss, but didn’t require action under federal rules. Regulators have not yet received the 2019 results.

Enbridge will have to review the failure history of the pipeline, inspect all three lines and develop a plan to restart them with additional surveillance.

Enbridge Spokesman Michael Barnes declined to answer specific questions about the pipeline, citing the ongoing investigation. In an email, Barnes said Enbridge is working with federal officials to meet the requirements laid out in the corrective action.

The National Transportation Safety Board returned control of the site to Enbridge on Friday afternoon. Enbridge employees have already begun to assess the two nearby pipelines, but have no timeline for when they might be back up and running, Barnes said.

“Safety is a guiding principle in everything we do,” he wrote in the email. “We will ensure all work activities are being done safely and respectfully to minimize disruptions to the surrounding community.”

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.